Dead to the World 12/17/14

December 17th, 2014

I’m Dreamin’ of a Wet Christmas – Christmas Jug Band, Jugology

Interview with Dennis McNally, author of On Highway 61: Music, Race, and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom

Don’t Ease Me In – Henry Thomas, from The Music Never Stopped: Roots of the Grateful Dead
Blue Yodel #9 – Jerry Garcia and David Grisman, Been All Around This World
Maple Leaf RagNew Orleans Rhythm Kings and Jelly Roll Morton
Dupree’s Diamond BluesGrateful Dead, Aoxomoxoa
St. Louis BluesLouis Armstrong
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out – Bessie Smith, from Blues Masters, Volume 11: Classic Blues Women
Some These Days I’ll Be GoneThe Definitive Charley Patton
Hellhound on My TrailRobert Johnson: The Complete Recordings
Little Red Rooster – Howlin’ Wolf, from Willie Dixon: The Chess Box
It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to CryPostcards of the Hanging: Grateful Dead Perform the Songs of Bob Dylan
Chimes of Freedom – Bob Dylan/Grateful Dead 7/12/87

Gans gig update

December 17th, 2014

Happy Holy Daze, friends and fans and family!

The first bit of big news is that Blair Jackson and I met our deadline! Our manuscript, This Is All A Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead, was turned in on time and we are now in the process of editing. It will be published next fall. More details when we know ‘em!

This means I am now able to get back to music.

2014 has been an eventful and musically satisfying year, despite my having scaled back on the gigs for the last few months while I worked on the book.

A free-form jamming ensemble sprang up after a couple of holiday-party jams and acquired a name as well as considerable creative momentum. The Known Unknown is Phil Savell and me on guitar; Zach Partain on bass; and Neil Hampton on percussion. We played with a great variety of guests over the course of the year, and we’re on track to play more gigs in 2015.

Sweet Blossom is a new ensemble whose motto is “Grateful Dead Done Differently”: Jacob Groopman on mandolin on vocals; Jeff Hobbs on fiddle and sax and vocals; Roger Sideman on bass and vocals; Neil Hampton on drums; and me on guitar an vocals. We’re playing December 27 in San Francisco (with Russell Ives covering for Jacob, who will be out of town), January 7 at Sweetwater in Mill Valley, and January 10 at the Ashkenaz in Berkeley.

My long-time friendship and musical collaboration with Eric Rawlins, which mostly manifests at private events and performances for shut-ins organized by Bread and Roses, breaks out into public view twice in the next few weeks: This Saturday at a house concert in El Cerrito, and Thursday 1/8 at Duende in Oakland. Eric and I have released two duo recordings: Home By Morning (1997) and Desert Wind, Rollin’ River, (2011). The latter was recorded in my living room by Stephen Barncard, who is best known for recording the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty and David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name. Both CDs are available from (and we’ll have ‘em for sale at the gigs, of course).

My collaboration with Cincinnati’s Rumpke Mountain Boys continues. I’ll be with them in Newport KY on New Year’s Eve, and we’re planning more collaborations for 2015.

And of course, I continue to perform my “solo electric” show all over the place: festivals, clubs, farmers’ markets, and house concerts. I’ve got a southwest tour scheduled for February 5-15, and lots more in the works for later in the year.

As just in case you thought I wasn’t going in enough directions all at once, I’m doing other pure-improvisation gig here and there with other partners. TOMORROW NIGHT, December 18, I’ll be at the Monkey House in Berkeley with J Raoul Brody on keyboards, Robin Sylvester on bass, and Neil Hampton on percussion. No plans: we’re just gonna start playing and see what happens.


Here is the current schedule. More info at, and more gigs will be posted there as they are confirmed.

  • Saturday, December 20, 2pm: house concert in El Cerrito CA. Solo and with special guest Eric Rawlins (performing songs from our album Desert Wind, Rollin’ River). $10-20 sliding scale. Email for info/reservations.
  • Saturday, December 27: Sweet Blossom (DG, Russell Ives, Jeff Hobbs, Roger Sideman, Neil Hampton) opens for Lonesome Locomotive at the Brick and Mortar Music Hall, San Francisco
  • Tuesday, December 30: Stanley’s Pub, Cincinnati w/ members of Rumpke Mountain Boys
  • Wednesday, December 31, 7pm: Rumpke Mountain Boys’ Grateful NYE Ball featuring David Gans, Born Cross Eyed, and Restless Leg String Band. Thompson House, Newport KY. Link to Facebook event
  • Friday, January 2: Plain Folk Cafe, 10177 State Route 132, Pleasant Plain, OH. Free show!
  • Wednesday, January 7, 8pm: Sweet Blossom at Sweetwater Music Hall, Mill Valley CA. Free show!
  • Thursday, January 8, 9pm: Duende, Oakland CA. Solo and with special guest Eric Rawlins (performing songs from our album Desert Wind, Rollin’ River). Advance tickets are available here.
  • Saturday, January 10: Sweet Blossom (DG, Jacob Groopman, Jeff Hobbs, Roger Sideman, Neil Hampton) with Melody Walker and Jacob Groopman at the Ashkenaz, 1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley. All-ages show!
  • Friday, January 16: The Known Unknown at Second Act, San Francisco
  • Saturday, January 17: The Known Unknown at the Art House Gallery, Berkeley CA
  • Thursday, February 5: House concert in Van Nuys CA. Potluck at 7, music at 8. $10-20 sliding scale. Email for info/reservations
  • Friday, February 6: House concert in Tempe AZ. Potluck at 6, music at 7. $10-20 sliding scale.Email for info/reservation
  • Saturday, February 7: House concert in Cornville AZ. Potluck at 6, music at 7. $10-20 sliding scale. Email for info/reservation
  • Sunday, February 8, 8pm: DG and Top Dead Center at the Boondocks, 3306 N 1st Ave, Tucson AZ. $8 at the door.
  • Saturday, February 14: House concert i Albuquerque NM. Potluck at 6, music at 7. $10-20 sliding scale. Email for info/reservations
  • Sunday, February 15: Orpheum Theatre, Flagstaff AZ. Free show! Doors at 6, music at 7.

Grateful Dead Hour no. 1369

December 14th, 2014

Week of December 15, 2014

Part 1 38:08
Grateful Dead 2/23/74 Winterland, San Francisco

Part 2 17:13
David Nelson Band, Once in a Blue Moon
Yusuf, Tell ‘Em I’m Gone
Bob Weir, Heaven Help the Fool

The 2015 Dave’s Picks subscription series kicks off with 2/24/74, so I’m playing 2/23/74 to get you in the mood. Dave’s Picks is four complete Grateful Dead shows on CD, delivered quarterly, plus a bonus disc. You can sign up here.

Support for the Grateful Dead Hour comes this week from The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York, a venue that hosted H.O.R.D.E tour greats like Phish and Widespread Panic in the 1990s. On December 27, jamband pioneers Blues Traveler return to The Cap for their ninth show. New local artists perform several times a week at the venue’s nightclub Garcia’s, a tribute to the late Jerry Garcia. Events, information, and ticketing at

Submitted the manuscript

December 8th, 2014

Today is the day I send my book manuscript in! It’s called This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead. I wrote it in collaboration with my friend and colleague (and neighbor) Blair Jackson. It is set to be published in the fall of 2015 by Flatiron Books.

This is the end of a three-year process that began with a different book. That one was cancelled when the publisher downsized. My agent shopped it around and got no takers (too esoteric), but Bob Miller, the head of Flatiron – who was the editor of my first book 30 years ago and has gone on to an illustrious career (founding head of Hyperion, among other achievements) said he’d love to work with me again and did I have anything else in mind? Blair and I had been kicking around the idea of an oral history, and my agent (who is also Blair’s agent) ordered us to do it.

I was able to use a lot of the material I had gathered for the other book, and Blair and I have nearly 80 years of Dead-related journalism between us. We gathered many new interviews over the last year to add to our existing resources. We spent several months working separately, grabbing stories from the interviews and putting them into buckets by year, and then we began stitching things together to weave the tale.

That process culminated with an intense period of work over the last week, finalizing everything. On Sunday 11/30, late at night after a long stretch of work, I took a big bong hit and blasted out a bunch of ideas for the intro and sent the file to Blair to respond and refine. That piece turned out to be a good deal closer to coherent and effective than I thought it was at the time, so it only took one or two bounces between us to call it a done deal.

The process has been amazingly friction-free. Blair and I have worked together off and on for nearly 40 years, and our editorial voices and sensibilities are similar enough that we have not had any problems creating a unified tone in the work.

I just sent the package off to our agent and our editor. There are a few little bits to finish here and there, and we need to come up with eleven photos, but 99% of it is done and we are happy with it.

Grateful Dead Hour no. 1368

December 7th, 2014

Week of December 8, 2014

Part 1 32:01
Grateful Dead 2/23/74 Winterland, San Francisco

Part 2 23:46
Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia, Keystone Companions

The 2015 Dave’s Picks subscription series kicks off with 2/24/74, so I’m playing 2/23/74 to get you in the mood. Dave’s Picks is four complete Grateful Dead shows on CD, delivered quarterly, plus a bonus disc. You can sign up here.

Support for the Grateful Dead Hour comes this week from The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. On December 17, featuring members of Dark Star Orchestra, Mattson/Barraco & Friends with Skip Vangelas play Grateful Dead classics, covers, and originals. Iconic photographer Bob Minkin will be on-site signing copies of his book Live Dead, the Grateful Dead Photographed by Bob Minkin. Featuring both local and national touring acts, Garcia’s is open several nights. Events, information, and ticketing at

Dead to the World 12/3/14

December 3rd, 2014

Touch of Grey->
Greatest Story Ever Told
Little Red Rooster
Stagger Lee
Queen Jane, Approximately
The Last Time
– Grateful Dead 2/25/90 Oakland Coliseum Arena

Don’t Be ScaredFancy von Pancerton, Don’t Kid Yourself
Emily Yates interview
It’s Just HappeningEmily Yates live in the KPFA studio
Go Out and PlayFancy von Pancerton, Don’t Kid Yourself
Different World->
Once in a Blue Moon
David Nelson Band, Once in a Blue Moon
Salt Lake CityBob Weir, Heaven Help the Fool
SuperbabyThe Secret Identities, Open Me Up
Big Boss Man – Yusuf, Tell ‘Em I’m Gone
American TuneT Sisters, Kindred Lines
Might as WellMight as Well: The Persuasions Sing Grateful Dead

RAIN, glorious rain!

November 30th, 2014

We really need rain in northern California. It’s raining in Oakland right now, and I hope it goes on for a few days. Here’s a little “rain” montage…

Grateful Dead Hour no. 1367

November 30th, 2014

Week of December 1, 2014

Part 1 11:36
David Nelson Band, Once in a Blue Moon

Part 2 44:14
Grateful Dead 2/23/74 Winterland, San Francisco

The first release of the 2015 Dave’s Picks subscription series will be February 24, 1974, so I thought I’d play music from another night of that run by way of letting you know how great the music of that period sounds. You can sign up for a Dave’s Picks subscription – which includes four quarterly complete-show CD sets plus a bonus disc – at We’ll hear the complete unreleased soundboard recording of 2/23/74 over the next few weeks.

PLUS! A brand new studio CD by one of my favorite bands on earth, the David Nelson Band!

Support for the Grateful Dead Hour comes this week from:

Dark Star Orchestra’s Jamaican Jam in the Sand Getaway, February 27 to March 3 at the Grand Lido Resort & Spa in Negril, Jamaica. Tree full, two-set DSO shows and an acoustic set, two David Nelson Band shows, Grateful Grass featuring Keller Williams, Vince Herman, Sam Grisman & Allie Kral, plus two more Keller Williams shows. Details at

The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. Featuring members of Stella Blues Band, Steve Liesman & The Mooncussers and opening act Finders Keepers perform covers, originals, and Jerry Garcia tunes at Garcia’s on December 9. Garcia’s is open several times a week for live music and showcases rare Jerry Garcia memorabilia. Events, information, and ticketing at

My contributions to “Roots of the Jam Weekend”

November 26th, 2014

My pal Ari Fink asked me (and my Tales from the Golden Road cohost, Gary Lambert) to pick some seminal tracks to play on the Jam_On Channel‘s “Roots of the Jam Weekend,” airing now through Sunday (11/30/14).

Here are the four pieces I contributed:

Dark StarLive Dead, recorded 2/27/69
The Grateful Dead didn’t invent jamming, but they did create a unique form of collective improvisation that set them apart from their contemporaries in the San Francisco music scene and inspired whole generations of musicians who grew up listening to them.

To my way of thinking, the most significant and satisfying music the Dead made was a little ditty called “Dark Star.” The original studio single was barely two minutes long, but it contained the genetic code for nearly infinite musical expansion, and great variations of feel from sweet and lilting to gnarly and noisy. I have often said I’ve never met a “Dark Star” I didn’t like, and I have listened to literally hundreds of recordings. Saw quite a few of ‘em live, too!

When all is said and done, the “Dark Star” on the 1969 album Live Dead is truly a peak performance. This is great music for driving across the desert, by the way. Take this with you on your next trip to southern Utah and I’m sure you’ll agree!

Playing in the BandEurope ’72: The Complete Recordings (5/10/72)
One of my favorite Grateful Dead songs/jams is “Playing in the Band,” which began with a ten-beat melody given to Mickey Hart by the Indian music master Alla Rakha. Mickey and lyricist Robert Hunter turned it into a song for Mickey’s 1972 solo album Rolling Thunder (titled “The Main Ten (Playing n the Band)”, with the help of Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir. Bobby started playing it with the Grateful Dead in 1971, and beginning with the Europe ’72 tour the band opened up a section in the middle of the song for exploration and expansion. There’s a very cool studio performance on Bobby’s 1972 solo album Ace, but of course the live performances are where the real magic can be found.

The Dead played “Playing in the Band” at every one of the 22 shows on the Europe ’72 tour (and twice on 4/21/72, during the Beat Club TV taping), and from that time on it was one of the band’s most important vehicles to JAM ON. This one, recorded on May 10, 1972 in Amsterdam, goes to some very interesting places before the musicians reconvene and bring it home for a big finish.

Watkins Glen Soundcheck JamSo Many Roads (1965-1995), recorded 7/27/73
The Grateful Dead are pretty much the founding fathers of the “jam band” genre, of course. The band was famous for never playing anything the same way twice, and for combining a brilliant collection of original songs and borrowed tunes with wild and often beautiful group improvisations. Nobody else did things quite the way the Grateful Dead did ‘em.

The Dead played a gigantic show in July of 1973 at the Watkins Glen Raceway in upstate New York on a bill with the Band and the Allman Brothers. The crowds were so huge waiting to get in that the promoters opened the place up a day early, and the sound check turned out to be a performance of sorts. So some several thousand fans were lucky to be on the premises when the Dead played this amazing bit of pure improvisation. The tape cuts in as the jam is beginning, but it seems pretty clear that this music did not emerge from a song – it’s just pure free-form. My co-producers and I all agreed that this jam belonged in the boxed set So Many Roads (1965-1995), and we gave it a very straightforward title: “Watkins Glen Soundcheck Jam.” It’s a thing of beauty, utterly unique in Grateful Dead history.

Beautiful JamSo Many Roads (1965-1995), recorded 2/18/71
The Grateful Dead were famous for their great original songs, unique interpretations of other people’s songs, and of course for making up brand-new music onstage in real time – the very definition of the word “jam.” I would like to share with you one of the sweetest piece of music I have ever heard, by anyone in any genre. It was performed at the Capitol Theater on February 18, 1971, coming out of the very first public performance of “Wharf Rat,” deep in the second set. I just fell in love with this the first time I ever heard it.

I had a chance to play this for Phil Lesh when he appeared on my radio show in Berkeley a while back, and it was really a treat to watch his face when he heard it for the first time since the band played it. This is a showcase for the sweetness of Jerry Garcia’s lead guitar and the sensitivity of the group mind that created it on the fly.

Grateful Dead Hour no. 1366

November 23rd, 2014

Week of November 24, 2014

Part 1 25:23
Grateful Dead 2/24/74 Winterland, San Francisco

Part 2 30:11
Grateful Dead 10/25/69 Winterland, San Francisco
David Nelson Band, Once in a Blue Moon

The first quarterly release of the 2015 Dave’s Picks subscription series will be the complete soundboard recording of 2/24/74 at Winterland. I played this selection from my old vault DAT, just to give you a taste of the music; obviously the mastered version will be a great improvement in audio quality! You can sign up for your 2015 subscription now. Subscribers also get a bonus disc of previously-unreleased material.

The 10/25/69 “Lovelight” with Stephen Stills is included here by request of a listener. Stills and his pals David Crosby and Graham Nash were good friends with the Grateful Dead. Stills played on Mickey Hart’s 1972 album Rolling Thunder; in addition to this guest shot at Winterland, Stills sat in with the GD in December 1969 (Los Angeles) and April 1983 (East Rutherford NJ).

“Film at Eleven” is from a brand-new studio CD by the David Nelson Band, and I am loving it! You’ll hear more from this wonderful CD in the weeks to come. If that name is unfamiliar to you, David Nelson is one of Jerry Garcia’s oldest musical running buddies. They played folk and bluegrass together, took acid for the first time together, and played together in the New Riders of the Purple Sage and the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band. The Nelson Band doesn’t tour very often, sorry to say, but they jam like mofos. Check ‘em out.

Support for the Grateful Dead Hour comes this week from:

The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. Phil Lesh & Friends will perform the last two shows of their 10-night fall run on November 28 and 29, with Anders Osborne, Marco Benevento, Stu Allen, Joe Russo. The venue’s nightclub, Garcia’s, hosts live music and entertainment weekly. Events, information, and ticketing at

Dark Star Orchestra’s Jamaican Jam in the Sand Getaway. February 27 to March 3 at the Grand Lido Resort & Spa in Negril, Jamaica. Tree full, two-set DSO shows and an acoustic set, two David Nelson Band shows, Grateful Grass featuring Keller Williams, Vince Herman, Sam Grisman & Allie Kral, plus two more Keller Williams shows. Details at